Hawks can’t hang on in home opener

Nelson leads Shawano with 16 points
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Leader photo by Jacy Zollar Shawano Community High School senior Cole Nelson drives up the court during a 55-53 loss to Pulaski on Tuesday. Nelson led the Hawks with 16 points and shot 4 of 4 free throws.

Shawano couldn’t extend its 2-0 start to the season after losing a tight home-opener matchup against Pulaski on Tuesday.

Coach David Ambrosius isn’t too worried, though.

“It’s still early in the season,” he said, “so at this point it’s just some mental mistakes that we’ll be able to show the kids on film, and we’ll just learn and get better from it.”

Pulaski (2-0) secured the first bucket of the nonconference game and kept the lead for the remainder of the first half. Shawano cut a 6-point deficit with just under three minutes left and finished the half trailing 30-28.

Dakota Maltbey initiated the Hawks’ second-half fight with a layup to tie the game, and Shawano (2-1) found its first lead, 34-32, three shots later by Brad Bartz.

Cole Nelson took five of the next six points to create a 4-point advantage, and the Red Raiders responded with a drive of their own. Pulaski’s 17-6 run created a 7-point deficit, the largest of the game for the Hawks, and despite battling back to 54-53, a Shawano foul gave Pulaski its opportunity to seal the game 55-53.

The closeness of the game was reflected in the top players of the night. Nelson led the Hawks with 16 points and shot 4 of 4 free throws, while Pulaski’s leader, Dylan Hendricks, scored 17 points and 3 of 4 at the line.

“I think Cole Nelson really kind of stepped out of his shell,” Ambrosius said. “We preach team basketball, and tonight was Cole’s night, and I thought he did an excellent job of stepping up and being aggressive and looking to score.”

“Dylan’s presence really is what won it for us,” Pulaski head coach Dave Shaw said. “He played similarly to Shawano’s top scorer. He was the key to the game, really. He was just able to make plays on both sides of the court.”

Shaw said he knew the game was going to be “very back-and-forth.”

“This is an old rival,” he said. “This game is always a good game for the communities and for the kids. I think we felt that tonight here. It was an exciting atmosphere to play in. I knew Shawano would be very tough, they have very experienced players, so we just tried to hang in there.”

For Shawano, the game gave the team an early taste of the postseason.

“It’s an early simulation of a playoff atmosphere against a really good team,” Ambrosius said. “So it gives us a good indication of where we’re at, where we need to get better and where we did some really good things tonight as well. So it’s just a good temperature test for us.”

Ambrosius pointed to offensive rebounding and aggressiveness as the key takeaways as the Hawks look toward their first conference matchup against defending WIAA Division 3 state champions, Xavier (2-0), on Tuesday.

One thing Shawano showed in the matchup was its diverse 3-point capability. The Hawks drained five shots from behind the arc from four players. Nelson scored two and Alex Mueller, Kaden Richards and Nick Grignon each added one.

“We’ve got a really good group of kids that are in here constantly and I think they’re really showing the talents and skills that they’ve worked on in the offseason,” Ambrosius said. “They’ve all taken their game to the next level. Really, they just put in the time and were willing to lay it all on the line here this season, and I think we’re starting to see that come out.”

Pulaski (55)

Dylan Hendricks 3-4 17; Pierce Narges 5-6 13; Brock Egnarski 0-0 8; Trevor Stiede 1-2 7; Logan Lukasik 0-0 6; Cole Ahrens 0-1 2; Ellis Kozlovsky 0-0 2.

Shawano (53)

Cole Nelson 4-4 16; Kaden Richards 0-0 9; Jacob Lacy 0-0 8; Brad Bartz 0-0 8; Alex Mueller 0-0 5; Nick Grignon 0-0 5; Dakota Maltbey 0-0 2.

Pulaski 30 25 — 55

Shawano 28 25 — 53